“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11
We continue in our journey through Paul’s prayer to the Philippians this week to be encouraged and strengthened by another gem contained therein. As we’ve studied this prayer so far, we’ve considered Paul’s deep desire for the saints’ love to abound in knowledge and discernment. The Philippians needed, and we need to have our senses exercised and discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Paul also spoke of an effect of our love abounding in such ways- that we approve the things that are excellent. Knowledge and discernment help us approve the things that are excellent through the trial, or testing, of them.
Today, our attention is drawn to another effect of such abounding love. Christian belief is manifest in Christian love and in lives marked by sincerity and being “without offense”. In other words, abounding in love in both knowledge and discernment leads to Christian living that is pure and without blame. That’s pretty awesome and humbling, isn’t it? Praise God for our Lord Jesus Christ and His work for us. Praise Him for the work of His Spirit in our lives! None of this is possible without Him.
We need Spirit wrought, love cultivated discernment to live lives that are sincere and without offense. What does biblical sincerity look like? Simply put: Honesty and upright hearts. Matthew Henry gives some helpful comments on this when he says, “Sincerity is our gospel perfection, that in which we should have our conversation in the world, and which is the glory of all our graces. When the eye is single, when we are inward with God in what we do, are really what we appear to be, and mean honestly, then we are sincere.” Remember, Paul encouraged the saints in Corinth to live in such a way by sharing the example of such behavior in his own life, as he and his companions lived “in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.” (2 Corinthians 1:12). He also made a similar statement a chapter later regarding their honesty, as they didn’t peddle God’s Word but spoke sincerely “in the sight of God in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17)
Paul also prayed that God’s people would also be an inoffensive people. What did he mean by that? We shouldn’t be apt to take offense. We should also be careful to not be offensive either to God or to our brethren (Acts 24:16). We need to be unwavering in walking according to our calling. The world, our flesh, and the devil seek to cause us to stumble and turn aside. We all can attest to the stumbling blocks Satan throws in our paths. Yet, by the grace of God and work of the Spirit, we rise above, persevering for the glory of Christ, seeking to live purely and blamelessly before God and men.
Do you find dishonesty, insincerity, or offensiveness are present in your life? The struggle with temptation to sin in these areas is real, some times quite strong. It can be all too easy to be deceived into thinking it would be better to lie, better to cover up, better to keep up appearances, better to offend than not to. Yet, the Spirit convicts us otherwise in His Word. May God work sincere repentance in our hearts where and when needed, and nurture and build up is us that which is pleasing to Him. May we walk in love cultivated knowledge and discernment, seeking to live sincerely and without offense today and till the day of Christ.